Rock Star: Sohail Nazari, business development manager at Andritz Inc.

#DisruptMining winner talks about his goals

by Timothy Fowler
Sohail Nazari surrounded by group of children.

As a volunteer with Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (EGBC), Sohail Nazari talks with kids about engineering and artificial intelligence concepts. Here, six volunteers build an artificial neural network (each child is an artificial neuron) that can differentiate between banana and apple. — Photo courtesy EGBC

Sohail Nazari promised his mother he would diligently apply himself to his studies in preparation for Iran’s national university entrance exam simply known as Konkur. He ranked fifth on a list of more than a million Konkur exam-takers. He hoped to get access to his first choice of universities, and his test score did open the door to the education he dreamed of and the career he hoped for. 

“I should have studied harder to be first,” said Nazari.

Now Nazari is business development manager with Andritz Inc. Andritz Automation Ltd, a division of Andritz Inc., rose to the top of Goldcorp’s 2019 #DisruptMining competition, which created more opportunities for Nazari, the company and their clients. The team at Andritz developed artificial intelligence for mining plant control. A.I. learns the best operating points of the process, including how to start up and shut down, and how to best deal with operating abnormalities and emergencies.

He said this about the #DisruptMining competition:

“Every achievement is a group work. The idea of training the AI with our digital twin was a new internal Andritz project. After learning about disrupt mining, I was able to convince my colleagues that entering this competition would be a benefit to us. My role was to lead our effort of preparing the application and the pitch video and participating in the live final event. I am very pleased that our effort was successful and need to thank my colleagues for this achievement.”

Sohail Nazari on stage at Goldcorp 2019 #DisruptMining competition.

Sohail Nazari takes to the stage at Goldcorp's 2019 #DisruptMining competition. — Photo courtesy Goldcorp

Nazari is proud to be a Canadian, having immigrated from Iran as a teenager. When he was completing his doctoral studies at the University of Alberta in electrical engineering, he threw himself into the culture in addition to focusing on academics. The University of Alberta provided the technical foundation for his work. But Nazari improved his spoken English and learned Canadian culture by working at the university pub and by selling cutlery door-to-door. These jobs put him in touch with Canadians and accelerated his integration into Canadian life.

Nazari followed his mother’s advice: persevere, value education, be kind and nice. Nazari persevered with this second language and with a heavy workload in pursuit of his goals. He points to an old saying that roughly translates to “being kind costs you nothing and can save you a heap of trouble.”

Nazari adds to this advice with the advice he would give to his younger self:

“I should have learned another language when I was younger when it was easier.”

Nazari advises foreign students to invest in getting to know the locals. Life will be richer, language will come faster and understanding culture will increase.

Sohail Nazari (third from the left) shares the stage with president and CEO of Goldcorp David Garafolo and Andritz Automation colleague Arthur Gooch along with #DisruptMining host Rick Mercer.

Sohail Nazari (third from the left) shares the stage with president and CEO of Goldcorp David Garafolo and Andritz Automation colleague Arthur Gooch along with #DisruptMining host Rick Mercer. — Photo courtesy Goldcorp

“It feels good to be integrated,” he said.

Nazari is fully engaged in his local community in Vancouver. He participates in festivals like Little Folks, as part of the folk festival locally. This puts him in touch with new people and deepens his understanding of various cultures.

“One day I want to be able to say I made things better,” he said.

One of Nazari’s favourite quotes is from Louis Pasteur’s speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, France (December 27, 1892) and is a compass for his life:

“ ... whether our efforts are or are not favored by life, let us be able to say, when we come near to the great goal, ‘I have done what I could.’ ”

Nazari’s mother must be proud.

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